Friday, 20 July 2012

"Enthusiasm is followed by disappointment and even depression, and then by renewed enthusiasm."

-Murray Gell-Mann

That's right, disappointment. I said in my last post that I thought the salamis were drying too quickly: turns out I was right. The salamis have all lost ~40% of their starting weights, so I thought it was time to cut into one to have a look. Feast your eyes on an excellent example of case hardening: 

The salami version of the RRoD
The outside has dried too fast, forming a relatively impermeable layer preventing the escape of moisture from the centre, which is still a bit too moist. Although this wasn't a great success, some things give me hope:
  1. Great bind on the salami; high five!
  2. No fat smearing. Again, high five!
  3. Copious mould growth;
  4. Fermentation success (I'd checked with pH strips) as they have a good 'salami' aroma
All good things I'm sure you'll agree; however, the case hardening is a pretty big setback that needs to be investigated and rectified before I attempt any more salami. A quick read on the interwebs turned up some advice regarding case hardening: one suggestion was to vacuum pack the salamis and stick them in the fridge for a couple of weeks. I don't have anything to lose (and it was a good excuse to get my new vacuum packer out), so I did just that. I'll take a look at them in 10 days or so and see how they're doing.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Salami update

After 48 hours fermenting the salamis have got a nice covering of white mould; I'm surprised how quickly it grew. There are a few bald stripes where the mould culture didn't reach, but they are slowly being colonised. I've weighed them all and put them in the curing chamber to dry. In a few weeks they should be ready!


Update:
I weighed the salamis today (8 days after I hung them to dry); they've all lost 15-20% of their initial weights. I suspect they are drying too fast and that I might see a bit of case hardening when I eventually cut them open. Patience grasshopper...

Friday, 6 July 2012

Red wine and fennel salami

I finally got round to having a crack at salami this weekend. I went for the classic red wine and fennel. It was a good opportunity to test out my new meat grinder, no more hand cranking like an idiot! I say idiot because whilst making my last batch of sausage I didn't trim the meat properly; I ended up feeding quite a bit of sinewy meat in, which promptly gummed everything up, doh! The new one chews through pretty much anything in short order.

Here are the finished beauties. The coarse grinder did a good job. I also made sure to mix everything well until the protein started to coat the bowl as I was stirring; hopefully it'll bind well in the casing. I would have taken more photos but I was up to my elbow in sausage...


I spent a couple of days last week cobbling together a container to ferment the little beauties in. Basically a cheap plastic bin from Tesco with a bulb in the bottom to provide some heat. The sides were lined with bubble wrap and tin foil for insulation. It all worked pretty well until I made the sausage. You see, for some reason it didn't click in my brain that the salamis would be curved; I'd reckoned on space for 5-6 perfectly vertically hanging salamis. Or, as it turns out, 2 curved salamis. Oh well - in the end I stuffed all four of them in (even though they were touching, which everything says not to do). Just over 24 hours later and the white salami mould is beginning to grow. The mould is a strain of Penicillium candidum used to make brie, you can buy it online from Ascott. I've got 'good' mould growing in my curing chamber, but I wanted to try out a commercial strain to see how it works. As we can't buy Bactoferm 600 in the UK (someone tell me if I'm wrong), I went with the P. candidum.

Ok, they don't look appetising now, but in a few weeks...
I added SPT-X starter culture to the salami mix for the fermentation. You can see in the first picture some mix wrapped in clingfilm. After 48 hours fermenting I'm going to check the pH with some test strips I also bought on the intertubes. I'm optimistic things are moving in the right direction as they are already starting to smell like salami, rather than rotting meat.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Pancetta and Lonzino

Bacon hanging in the smoker
The smoking was a success! The pancetta smoked for just shy of 24 hours in a mixture of cherry and oak, roughly 50:50. I was slightly concerned that the neighbours would wonder what the hell was going on on my balcony; luckily the smoker doesn't produce that much smoke at all. I had a bit of trouble getting it lit initially, but once it was going it ran without a hitch.



I wrapped it in clingfilm and let it rest in the fridge for 2 days before I tried it. It smelled very smoky - almost like a speck or air-dried schinken (betraying my German ancestry there). So what does it taste like? Pretty good! The smoke flavour is strong, but not overly so. I might reduce the smoking time to two burns of the ProQ rather than three; but it's pretty good as it is. I'll definitely have to experiment with different times and different woods. I'm going to make some 'English' loin bacon this week, I've got some oak and hickory to try out.

Obligatory 'arty' shot

Like I said in a previous post I've just got back after being away with work for a couple of weeks. During that time the small lonzino I had hanging reached the magic weight loss of 30%. Sadly I wasn't arround to take it out. When I eventually got back it was pushing 35-40% weight loss. I didn't have high hopes as a couple of weeks before I'd noticed the top had dried much faster than the bottom. If anything it was too dry, very solid to the touch. Maybe I should start rotating them end over end every week. Does the moisture inside sink to the bottom under gravity I wonder? Or, more likely, is the fan at the top of my cabinet just drying the top of the meat faster? Whatever it might be I put the lonzino in a bag and put it into the fridge in the hope that the moisture would somehow re-distribute itself. Then I promptly forgot about it. 

The money shot

I re-discovered the lonzino this weekend whilst sorting through the fridge for something to snack on. I saw it huddled at the back like it was trying to escape my notice. On closer inspection one end was slightly dry, but cutting through the middle it's beautiful: not too salty, with a slight taste of juniper and hint of bay. Nom.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Smoking in progress

The pancetta came out of the cure yesterday. I washed it off and left it to dry overnight in the fridge to develop a pellicle. It's cold smoking now in a mixture of oak and cherry. I'm going to give it a total of 24 hours in 8-10 hour stints. Fingers crossed!